My first exposure to music was as a child watching Farmer Grey cartoons
on the Uncle Fred Sales show, broadcast years before WNET on channel 13,
from Nutley, New Jersey, a few miles from New York City. The cartoons
were composed of black on white line drawings and mainly concerned Farmer
Grey battling mice. The background music, if memory serves me, was
mainly the same Strauss family polkas, repeated over and over. I loved
the music, still do, but, engrossed in watching our Muntz black and white
TV, the repetitions didn't bother me, but it used to drive my mother
crazy as she cooked dinner.
The New York Times
May 7, 2005
A Label Puts Music From Films in Focus
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Like the dribble of an automatic coffee maker, a stream of classic
movie music is issuing from the Naxos record label.
They are not classical music staples like Leonard Bernstein's
"On the Waterfront" score. The titles include the classic, the
arty, the obscure and the Grade B: "The Wolf Man," "The Maltese
Falcon," "The Invisible Man Returns," "Red River," "King Kong,"
"Captain Blood," "Les Miserables" and "Objective, Burma!"
Naxos released 10 albums in February. Another 3 are due this
year, one each in May, June and September. Most are cheaper
reissues of recordings previously on the company's more expensive
Marco Polo label, which has put out some 30 recordings of film
music in recent years. More reissues are expected.
The releases are shining light on the works of a generation of
journeyman composers who worked in Hollywood starting in the
These composers were masters of swelling romantic melody,
scampering chase music, stirring chords of triumph, sinister
forebodings - and plenty of musical filler with all the character
of cardboard. It is an odd artistic position: the composers
were shackled to a film's narrative while still striving to evoke
emotions through the ear.
They include Max Steiner, Adolph Deutsch, Franz Waxman, Bernard
Herrmann, Erich Korngold and Dimitri Tiomkin. The Naxos series
also includes movie scores by well-known classical composers
whose names in movie credits may be more surprising, like Georges
Auric, Jacques Ibert, Dmitri Shostakovich and Arthur Honegger.
Sales have been tiny but not inconsequential. "There is a very
well defined collector's market for soundtracks," said Klaus
Heymann, the founder and chairman of Naxos. "There are some
grand tunes that can come from a symphony or orchestral piece.
And there are people who like to have every note."
Mr. Heymann said the film score series would account for less
than 1 percent of the label's yearly worldwide sales, which he
put at about seven million. "We do a lot of things that are not
profitable," he said.
The releases by Naxos, known for classical music, are a small
testament to how much a part of the American classical music
scene movie music has become.
Other record companies, led by Sony Classical, have tilted toward
soundtracks in recent years. The violinist Joshua Bell regularly
performs a violin concerto based on John Corigliano's score to
"The Red Violin." A symphony derived from Howard Shore's "Lord
of the Rings" score is making the rounds of orchestras.
Film music programs have become entrenched in orchestra seasons
as a way to draw ticket buyers.
"The orchestral world is clearly trying to break out of its old
and prescribed box," said Deborah Borda, the president of the
Los Angeles Philharmonic. "This has been seen as one way that
orchestras in a fairly graceful way can reach out to new audiences.
After all, so often the first music that people hear is film
At the Los Angeles Philharmonic, movie music was generally
confined to the Hollywood Bowl until two years ago, when it was
brought into the main subscription concerts at the recently
opened Walt Disney Concert Hall.
The New York Philharmonic performed an evening of movie music
last month for the second season in a row. Both years' concerts
sold out, said the orchestra's spokesman, Eric Latzky, a rarity
when the orchestra, on average, is selling only four-fifths of
Avery Fisher Hall. Two movie nights are planned for next year.
"Obviously we have discovered a substantial general public that
is interested in this music," Mr. Latzky said.
Much of the film music in concert-hall programs is by contemporary
composers who have written for recent movies. Naxos is digging
up more obscure archaeological specimens.
John Morgan, a 58-year-old film composer who grew up in San
Diego, has recreated many of the scores for Naxos, which contracted
the recordings to the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. Recording with
the orchestra in Russia was a major cost-saver.
"The people that love this stuff, they can't get enough," Mr.
Morgan said. "If you leave out one cue, the most mundane cue
in the score, it's going to be someone's favorite cue, and you'll
hear from them." Cues are passages of music often associated
with specific scenes.
Given the fragmentary and ephemeral nature of film scores, Mr.
Morgan's work is painstaking.
Movie composers often did not create full scores, and in those
cases Mr. Morgan had to rely on a piano reduction or several
individual parts to produce one. In the case of "King Kong,"
he obtained Max Steiner's original pencil sketches from Brigham
Young University, which holds the composer's papers.
He examined the sketches and compared them to the soundtrack,
which he listened to over and over to produce a complete picture
of the music on paper. When there was a score in other cases,
it sometimes did not match the finished product because of
last-minute changes to match the images.
Reconstruction was not an easy task.
"In 'King Kong,' there's a lot of fast-running-around music,"
he said. "Millions of notes."
"I just love dramatic music," Mr. Morgan added. "For a guy
like me, who still has that old-fashioned heart, I guess film
is the only place you can make a living with your heart on your
* Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company